“People would just kind of look at me, like, ‘Good luck with that,’ Johnston said, recalling passing conversations with others about her and her boyfriend Mark’s plans before leaving California. “But people who knew me and Mark and knew how motivated we were—how creative we are and how when we set our mind to something, we would go for it and we give it our all—I think nobody that actually knew us doubted us.”
The friends have been proven right and the doubters wrong. Three years into their venture, Amy and Mark Johnston are married, and their small retail store, Prickly Pear Paper, which specializes in graphic design, letterpress printing and premium paper goods handmade in Gilbert, is well established.
Furthermore, Amy has fully adopted her new state. The cards and stationery have a distinctly Arizona theme to them.
“I would say after, like, six months of living here, I really just kind of melted into the landscape,” she said.
Mark, on the other hand, had deep roots here. He is a nephew to Agritopia developer and local restaurateur Joe Johnston. When Joe was bringing the concept of Barnone, a maker space in Agritopia, to life, Mark and Amy became inspired to break from their California home and come to Gilbert to try their hand with the store.
Mark was a senior graphic designer for a skateboarding league company, and Amy was managing a clothing store. They met in college at Azusa Pacific before moving to Los Angeles.
The company they started has a retail component: cards, which are all blank inside; stationery and other paper products. It also handles custom orders, and Mark can do full graphic design work for customers. Uncle Joe is one such customer—the logos and menus for his Gilbert restaurants are Prickly Pear’s work.
“We always try to create some kind of element that has a little touch of Arizona to it if we can, just because we’re really inspired by living here,” Amy said. “We love living in the desert.”
Prickly Pear Paper
3000 E. Ray Road, Bldg. 6, Ste. 104, Gilbert
Hours: Tue.-Sat 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m., closed Mon.